Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Setting the bar high

Four days down, 361 to go, and we've got a candidate for Stupidest Story of the Year!

You know 2010’s top head­lines, but here are the ones you and your buddies will talk about around the water cooler years from now.

Following a bad setup with a worse bet. If there's anything sillier than assuming that the public read the news, it's telling me what I'll be discussing (or "talking about around," if you're feeling prepositional) the water cooler "years from now." Hey, let's see what the local paper thinks I'll be talking about:

Honey, we're rich! But first, do you have a minute to talk?
Someone hit the Powerball jackpot in November for $128.6 million after buying the ticket at a Highland Park porn shop.

This one actually seems to have made some headlines around the nation, but it's a lot funnier if you haven't seen the porn shop.* It has a walk-up window on Woodward for buying lottery tickets.

Lawyer gone wild
Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell grew so incensed over Chris Armstrong, the openly gay president of the University of Michigan's Student Assembly, that he created a "watch" blog on the Internet, heckled Armstrong in public and labeled him a radical homosexual, a Nazi and Satan's representative.

Odd. When I think of "wacky," I tend to think -- oh, "wackiest ship in the Army" or something. Not "vicious, raving loony hangs on as senior state legal official for two months before someone has the decency to fire him."

Wazzat? Hutaree who?
In March, federal agents set out into rural Michigan to round up nine members of a new Michigan militia, the Hutaree, and charge them with plotting a violent overthrow of the U.S. government. The Hutaree were supposedly caught on tape making threats, but their supporters say the group was all talk.

Third verse, same as the second. Conspiracy (or so the indictment alleges) to kill a police officer and attack the funeral? HAHAHAHAHAHA wacky! Here's the cutline for the picture shown above:

From porn shop to Hooters, 2010's oddest stories included one about the Hutaree accused of plotting to overthrow the U.S. government. The father of one member appears outside federal court in Detroit in May.

I'm not normally one to complain much about the "false range," but if you ever want to see one in the flesh, "from porn shop to Hooters" is a good example. I'd rather pick on the false restrictive -- is there an odd story from 2010 about the Hutaree who aren't accused of plotting to overthrow the government? But I think the main that's happening here is the time-honored sport of making fun of rednecks. Oh look, it's a funny-looking old dude in a T-shirt walking around Detroit with a Meijer bag full of something! It doesn't say much about the memorable stories of 2010, but it says quite a lot about what the Freep considers to be normal and abnormal -- and "wacky."

Anyway, let's move ahead to the corruption update:

• In June, the Freep asked attorney Arnold Reed at a news conference whether he were representing former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for free. Reed asked whether the reporter himself worked for free, and when the reporter wouldn't answer, Reed clucked like a chicken.

Way to knock your lede into a cocked hat there. It's going to be hard to talk about this one around the water cooler in years to come if we've never heard of it until now. And there seems to be good reason for its having remained secret (hint: see if you can guess what relation "the reporter" is to the person named in the byline).

This one actually skates up toward being an ethics issue: You don't use your position to get back at somebody who yanked your chain by showing you up in public. That's a rule. If someone implies that you're a chicken for not being able to take what you dish out, well ... bawk bawk bawk.

That, I guess, is what makes this something for editors to talk about. Writers do the writing, but -- eventually -- an editor decides whether a certain amount of square footage is going to be spent on a piece of writing or not. I hope some editors somewhere are wishing that they'd looked at this swill and clucked like a chicken. And then gently hit the "delete" button.

* It was a drug store when Language Czarina lived in the neighborhood. Srsly. .


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